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Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Bush: "There will never be a Palestinian state, in my judgment, if terrorists are willing to kill"

At a press conference yesterday at Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, TX, Pres. Bush and Pres. Mubarak of Egypt met with reporters. Here's an exerpt:
Q Thank you, sir. If I could ask both of you -- are both of you prepared to endorse the Israeli withdrawal plan?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Steve, I welcome -- first of all, let's not prejudge what Prime Minister Sharon is going to tell me. So I don't want to put words in his mouth until he actually comes to America on Wednesday. We discussed the rumors of such a withdrawal. And we discussed it in the context of the two-state solution and the roadmap.

In other words, we both are in agreement that if Israel makes the decision to withdraw, it doesn't replace the road map, it is a part of the road map, so that we can continue progress toward the two-state solution. And I really welcomed my friend's advice. He is -- he knows the area well. And he's been in touch with the parties and he has got good judgment on this matter. Let's wait until the Prime Minister comes. But if he were to decide to withdraw from the Gaza, it would be a positive development.

Q Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT BUSH: He wanted to know your -- just a second, excuse me. He wanted to have your reaction to a possible withdrawal, if you'd like to share that. You don't have to, if you don't want to. He's a kind fellow --

PRESIDENT MUBARAK: I have discussed this with the President, the withdrawal from Gaza. I think any withdrawal from the occupied territory is very highly appreciated. But I would like the withdrawal to coincide with the road map, which is very important, because withdrawing from Gaza alone, without connecting it with the road map, we never know it will be Gaza alone. It will be very difficult. It will not be accepted by the public opinion in the area. So the withdrawal from Gaza, if it is a part from the road map, I think it will be very highly appreciated.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, the point is that the decision doesn't replace the path toward the establishment of a Palestinian state that will provide hope for the Palestinian people and provide continuity, and put the institutions in place necessary for a state to evolve. I'm confident there will be ample willingness of people in Europe or the United States government to enact economic -- to take economic measures necessary to provide a hopeful future. And we're in accord on this issue. And I look forward to meeting with the Prime Minister and hear what he has to say.

Final question, if you'd like to call on somebody.

Q Thank you very much. My question is for you, Mr. Excellency Bush, and Mr. Excellency Mubarak. But let me first tell you, happy Easter, before asking about the peace process. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you. We had a great Easter. I'm sorry it's so chilly here. It's usually warmer.

Q Thank you very much. So you announced your vision of a two-state solution almost three years ago --


Q Do you think this vision can be realized in spite of the Israeli policy of expanding settlements and establishment of the separate wall, which violates the green line?

And for you, Mr. President Mubarak, how can Egypt help the Palestinians to take their responsibilities after the Israeli withdrawal?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Great question. Yes, I think we can achieve a two-state solution. You're right, I think I made the speech at the United Nations in 2001, if I'm not mistaken -- September of 2001 -- the first American President to do so, to make that public declaration a policy. And the reason I did is because I believe it's in the Palestinians' interest to have their own state, and I believe it's in Israel's interest that the Palestinians develop a peaceful state.

Mon Apr 12 - A masked Palestinian militant takes
part in a mass rally in the West Bank city of Nablus.
(AFP/File/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)
The reason why -- we've made some progress, by the way. There is what they call the road map, a strategy to achieve that, which is good. The problem is, is that there's terrorists who will kill people in order to stop the process. And that's why it is essential that we work together to stop terrorist killing. There will never be a Palestinian state, in my judgment, if terrorists are willing to kill. And so the first step we've got to do is to work on the mutual security concerns of the region. And we can't let people blow up a process. But that's what happened, as you might recall. And there's been suiciders and killers and -- you know -- and it's essential that we work together to stop that kind of terror.

It will be much easier for the Palestinians to assume their responsibilities -- and there are responsibilities for the Palestinians, particularly when it comes to developing a state that is a peaceful state -- it will make it a lot easier if we can continue to keep the pressure on the terrorists, make it a lot easier for them to assume their responsibilities.

PRESIDENT MUBARAK: The problem of the Middle East has --nearly about to be 50 years now. It's a very complicated problem, and if we keep it, more and more, it will be much more complicated than ever before. It could have been solved several years ago, but now it's very difficult. But in this context, I really thank President Bush, the first President of the United States who could say that, I'm ready to agree on establishing two states beside each other, independent states -- Palestinian state and the Israeli state. This is the first time we could hear it. We have to build on it.

Concerning Gaza, I think we could help a lot in Gaza by training the police, by giving them advice, by sending them some groups to make plans for them how to work. And in that regard, we are ready to do. We have contacts with them, we have contact with the different factions which could create problems now and then. And you remember they convened in Cairo several times. We are ready to invite them again to us to help stability in Gaza for a continuation for more withdrawal.

Thank you.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, sir.

By the way, tomorrow night I'm interested in answering more questions for you all. So if you pick out a red or blue tie --

Q: A news conference?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Why not. See you at the East Room.

END 12:15 P.M. CDT